Transitioning Back to Training – First Stop on the Way to the Brooklyn Half

Just two weeks, I ran the Jersey City Marathon. Usually, I’d take it easy for a few weeks with a clear focus on recovery – but this time I’m pushing things along a bit in order to get ready for the Brooklyn Half Marathon.

The race is five weeks after Jersey City – just enough time to get fully recovered and feel ready to hit the pavement again. It’s also an opportunity – if everything goes well – to notch a qualifying time for the 2025 NYC Marathon. We’ll see how things go.

After two weeks of easing back into running, this week starts with the first big moment in this transition from one race to another – the Spring Distance Classic 15k.

This race was supposed to be a tune up race before Jersey City. But it got rained out, and it was rescheduled for this week – two weeks after my marathon.

It’s not ideal, but after some reflection I figured that it offered a good opportunity to push myself a little bit and prime my legs for the real race in a couple of weeks.

The Plan for the Race – and the Week

The race is Sunday.

My plan is to take it easy in the beginning. I’m going to run by feel in the beginning and try not to pay attention to the pace. If I’m feeling off, I’ll back off and jog it in. But if everything feels good, I’ll try and speed up towards the end – for the last 5k or so. I’d love to be able to hit half marathon pace (6:25-6:30/mi) over the last couple of miles.

After the race, here’s the full schedule for the week:

  • Sunday: 12 miles (2.5 mile warm-up + 15k race)
  • Monday: 6 miles easy
  • Tuesday: 6-8 miles easy
  • Wednesday: 6-8 miles easy
  • Thursday: 10 miles easy
  • Friday: 6-8 miles easy
  • Saturday: 6-8 miles easy

If I’m feeling good, I’ll target 8 miles most days. That will get me up to 60 miles for the week. That’s the baseline I want to hit over the next few weeks leading up to Brooklyn. But if I’m feeling tired or beat up, I’ll stick with 6 miles. That’ll still put me at just over 50 miles for the week – which isn’t bad.

Mini Race Report: The Spring Distance Classic 15k

The race is about 30 minutes from my house, and it doesn’t start until 9am.

So I had a leisurely morning. Up at six, ate a bagel, drank two cups of coffee, used the bathroom, and hit the road. The ride was uneventful, except that my GPS routed me to drive along the race course to get to the start. The course is basically out and back along a straight road through a forested area, which meant that I pulled up on the wrong side of the start line … with no clear way to get to the other side to park.

I took a closer look at the map, and there was a small road that led through a private community. It was blocked off – probably to stop people from parking there – but I edged around the barrier and slowly passed through to get to the other side.

I found parking and jogged over to check in. I saw Donny – who I met at Jersey City and ran with for the beginning of the race – and we chatted for a few minutes. I got my bib, dropped my stuff at the car, and jogged two miles for a warm up. After another final stop at the porta potty, I pulled up to the starting area around 8:55.

The race ended up being a little smaller than usual due to the change of dates. Last year, there were 600+ runners. This year it was closer to 300. My plan was to start out slow, so I lined up in the middle of that group.

The gun went off, and we shuffled to the front. I started my watch as I crossed the timing mat, and I eased into a steady pace. I didn’t look at my watch, and I just measured my effort based on my breathing. It was easy – fourth steps breathing in, four steps breathing out.

The nice thing about starting towards the back is that you can continue to pass people for a long time – and that’s what I did for most of the first mile. After a mile – and I saw from the timing clock that we’d run it in around 6:50-7:00 – we turned right to go out and back along a smaller road. By the time we got back to the main road, we were about 5k in to the race. I’d passed quite a few people, and now the pack was a bit more steady.

But over the next few miles, I continued to slowly reel people in. My breathing got a little heavier – moving up to three steps in, three steps out – but it was still pretty controlled and easy. My legs felt good, so I kept at it. There was a second out and back along another side road, and we got back to the main road around 5 miles. I decided to pick up the pace after six miles. There was a final turnaround shortly after the 10k mark, and then it was a straight shot to the finish. I’d look at the pace after that turnaround and see what I could do.

As we approached the final turnaround, I saw Donny pass by ahead of me. He was towards the front – somewhere between #10 and #20. We waved and continued on. I passed a couple more people, then I hit the turn around point and pressed for home. I counted to 100 – about a minute – to give my watch time to register the pace difference. I looked down it said ~6:40.

Hmm. A little slower than I’d wanted, but whatever. This isn’t a goal race. I pushed on and upped the effort a little more. By this point, my breathing was labored. But I lapped mile 7 in 6:37.

Two miles to go. I looked ahead, and I spotted a couple runners I thought I could chase down. My breathing was getting heavier, and my legs were feeling heavier, too. But there was no pain or discomfort, and I just felt like it was late in a 15k race. I pushed on – lengthening my stride and trying to press the pace. I managed to move up a couple more places, and I lapped 8 miles in 6:32.

I still hadn’t hit my goal pace (6:25), but that was besides the point. I had a little over a mile to go, and I was just focused on finishing strong. There was a pack of four or five runners from one of the local running clubs. My goal in mile 9 was to chase them down. It took a while, but I got there.

I passed one final guy towards the end of mile 9 and lapped it in 6:37. Just a little bit of road ahead of us – and one hill. It was a flat course, other than this little hill (~30 feet) at the beginning and end of the course. I thought the guy I had passed was right behind me, so I charged up the hill. I was gulping down air at this point, and when I crested the hill I tried charge ahead. I couldn’t spring, but I kept up the pace. I heard someone behind me grunt a couple times – far enough back that I didn’t think I needed to worry about him. But I wasn’t sure, so I pressed on.

I was surprised to see my wife at the finish line. She had something else to do this morning, and she didn’t think she was going to make it. Turns out she pulled up right after the start. I waved, crossed the finish line, and pulled off to the side to catch my breath. That finish was tough, but I was happy I finished strong.

Race Reflections

This wasn’t a goal race, so I wasn’t overly concerned with my time. I finished in 1:03 – which would have been disappointing for an all out effort.

But given the fact that I took it easy for the first five or six miles, I was pretty happy with the result. The final 5k was ~20:30 – and I would have liked to finish it in 20. So I was a little behind pace, but I’ll chalk that up to lingering fatigue from the marathon.

My wife and I went to chat with Donny after the race. He had finished first in the men’s 40-44 age group (with a more impressive 58:30) – and it turns out I finished in second. But I’ll take it – and enjoy my hat as a prize.

Afterwards, we grabbed breakfast at Blue Cafe in Basking Ridge. It was amazing. I went home to shower and take a nice nap, and then I enjoyed a relaxing Sunday.

Could I have run this race in 59-60 minutes – if I was rested up and back to normal? I think so.

Clearly, I can’t use this time as a predictor for my half. But this time equates to a 1:31 half – so based on the assumption that I’m in much better shape than that, I can definitely go under 1:30. My marathon time (3:08) also points to ~1:30 for the half, and thanks to my aggressive pacing (and late fade) in the race that wasn’t representative of my potential, either.

So, I think I have an outside shot at 1:25 in Brooklyn. It’s a stretch goal. 1:26 to 1:27 would probably be a safer bet, if all I wanted was a decent PR. The course is a bit hilly, and May is an iffy time for weather. But if I can make it through the first half alive, then I think I can coast through the second half – which is downhill – in great time. And I really want that 1:25 to get into NYC. So it’s worth being aggressive here.

I’ll take the rest of this week easy – except a light workout on Thursday – and then I’ll probably test out race pace at the end of my long run next Sunday. Then we’ll see where things are really at.

The Rest of the Week

And here’s a quick recap of the rest of the week.

Monday – A Stiff Six Miles on the Trails

I slept well (and a little late). When I woke up, I felt pretty good – but when I got moving my legs were a bit stiff. It took a while to ease into my six miles on the trail, and I eventually felt ok.

The bigger issue was the weather. It warmed up a lot. Just the other day, spring was turning back into winter. Today, it was fast forwarding to summer.

I shut the windows and turned on the air conditioner last night. By the time I hit the trails, the temp was well into the 70’s. I was taking it easy, anyway, but the sweat built up a lot more quickly and my heart rate was a little higher than usual at points.

As a result, I didn’t feel great throughout the run – and it was a little tough to distinguish between what was caused by fatigue from yesterday’s race and what was caused by the sudden surge in temperature. I guess we’ll wait and see.

Somehow, I ended up finishing in good time, though – 56:30.

Tuesday – Eight Easy Miles on the Trail

At the beginning of the week, I wasn’t sure if I’d move up to eight miles for a regular easy run – or if I should stick with six.

I felt pretty good when I went out Tuesday morning, so I decided to do the full eight miles on the trails. The weather was, thankfully, back to normal for the spring. No more 70+ heat (for now).

It’s now the end of April, and it’s crazy how much the forest has changed in just a couple of weeks. At the beginning of the month, I could see through the trees and the bushes and shrubs were just starting to get green. Today, everything was pretty well grown in and the trails were lined with green walls of foliage.

The run went great. I tried to keep the pace easy, but I felt like I was flying in the second half. I stopped and looked at my watch – 1:13. Normally, this route would take 1:15 to 1:20 – depending on how I was feeling.

Wednesday – A Foggy Morning on the Trails

After yesterday’s success, I decided to stick with eight miles for my easy days this week – putting my mileage goal at 60. That meant another easy eight on the trails this morning.

I had to commute to the office, so that meant waking up extra early. I wasn’t particularly happy when the alarm went off, but what can you do. I eventually got moving, and the first thing I noticed when I got outside was the fog.

I could hardly see more than two or three hundred feet ahead of me. The trail was shrouded in fog, and it was very eerie. But it makes for an interesting run. Something odd I noticed was that the birds – usually camouflaged brown against the dirt of the trails – were a pop of color against the foggy background.

Things went swimmingly, and before I knew it I was at the turn around. Again, it felt like I was flying on the way back. I might have pushed a little harder than easy – on the last hill my heart rate dipped into the yellow zone for a bit. But the majority of the time, I was running at a solid aerobic pace.

I wrapped up in 1:12 – a minute faster than yesterday. Not that I was trying to push for a speed record, but this has me optimistic that I’m recovering well from the marathon and ready for a good performance at the Brooklyn Half.

Thursday – A Little Taste of Speed

Thursday, I planned to do a shortened I workout to test out the speed in my legs. In a normal workout, I’d do 20-24 minutes at I (5k) pace. For this, I cut it down to 14 minutes – 7 x 2 minute reps with 1 minute jogging in between.

I started with a nice warm up of a couple laps around the Reservoir. I wrapped up with some strides and some leg swings. Everything felt pretty good.

The first rep, I went out a bit too quickly. I could tell towards the end, because my breathing was a lot heavier than it should have been. I wasn’t targeting a specific pace. But looking at the data, I went out at 6:00/mi – and that was too fast.

But it’s a short rep, and after a minute of jogging I felt fine. The next two went pretty well – 6:11 / 6:07. The fourth rep was a little slower (6:18). At this point, I was questioning whether I was suffering from starting off to fast or dealing with some lingering fatigue.

Before I started the fifth rep, I was passed on the path by a couple of parks employees driving their little golf cart. They were far enough ahead, I didn’t think I’d risk catching up to them before my next rep was over. But after I started running, a few people got in their way and slowed them down. I ended up catching them, slowing down as I passed them, and then sprinting the last part of the rep to ‘make up’ for slowing down.

It was … not well executed. And as a result I felt pretty tired going into the next one – and the next rep was 6:33/mi. The final rep was 6:17/mi, so not bad. But I was a lot more tired than I’d expect to be after a shortened workout.

Overall, my pace was 6:13. Not bad, but not indicative of being in the shape I want to be for my upcoming half. But I’ll have a chance to do another workout next week and hopefully – with an extra week removed from the marathon – that’ll go better.

Friday – Back on the Trails

Friday, I hit the trails again for an easy 8 miles.

I also had to get down to the office, and I had a meeting first thing so I didn’t have my usual buffer time. I managed to actually get out of bed when my first alarm went off before 6 o’ clock – and I hit the trails just as the sun was coming up.

It was a beautiful morning. The miles breezed by. The first mile felt a little stiff following the workout, but after that it felt like any other day. I finished up in 1:13 – so still faster than typical.

By the time I got back to the house, let the dog out, made my lunch, and hit the road … I was cutting it close. But I did manage to get down to the office right on time.

Saturday – Wrapping Up the Week

This morning, I wrapped up with one final easy run on the trails. I started this week not sure if I was ready for 8 miles a day – but it’s felt great. It feels a little easier with every day.

One of my other hobbies is making beer, and this morning was brew day. So I woke up and set the water to heat up. When I put the grains in to mash, I left to hit the trails.

It’s a nice morning, so plenty of other people were out. I saw a handful of runners, some people walking their dogs, and a few packs of hikers. One group of 5-6 runners ran by in matching shirts – I didn’t recognize them, but I wonder what the group was.

When I stopped my watch and looked down, I was surprised to see 1:11:56. I don’t know that I’ve ever run this route at an average pace below 9:00/mi.

Hopefully this is a sign of things to come. I usually see a drop in my easy pace following a marathon – partially due to the removal of chronic fatigue and partially the payoff from all the miles. We’ll see if it carries over into the next training block.

Looking Ahead

The Brooklyn Half is two weeks from today. Yikes!

The more I think about my goal time – 1:25 – the more I wonder if it’s reasonable. But we’ll see.

I plan to go for a regular long run tomorrow and try to wrap it up with a few miles at goal pace (~6:30/mi). If I can’t do that, I’ll know it’s time to re-evaluate.

From there, I’ll do a solid workout next week and one final long run next Sunday. Then, before you know it, it’s race time. 5 weeks is not a lot of time between races.

But all in all, it’s been a good week. Recovery is going well, and I really feel like I’m ready to “train” this week.

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